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Milan-San Remo 2013: When snow almost stopped La Primavera – Gallery

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The Milan-San Remo peloton in the snow

The Milan-San Remo peloton in the snow (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Diego Rosa (Androni Giocattoli)

Diego Rosa (Androni Giocattoli) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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MTN-Qhubeka's Gerald Ciolek sprints to the win at the 2013 Milan-San Remo, ahead of Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara

MTN-Qhubeka's Gerald Ciolek sprints to the win at the 2013 Milan-San Remo, ahead of Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Manuel Belletti is helped to the team car

Manuel Belletti is helped to the team car (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) suffered in the cold conditions and eventually retired from the race

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) suffered in the cold conditions and eventually retired from the race (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Longo Borghini (Cannondale)

Paolo Longo Borghini (Cannondale) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Manuel Belletti (AG2R - La Mondiale)

Manuel Belletti (AG2R - La Mondiale) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Kristijan Koren (Cannondale)

Kristijan Koren (Cannondale) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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A cold, wet, but happy Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) is shepherded through the crowds after winning the 2013 Milan-San Remo

A cold, wet, but happy Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) is shepherded through the crowds after winning the 2013 Milan-San Remo (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Gerlad Ciolek can't believe he's just won the 2013 Milan-San Remo, while Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara can't believe they've just lost

Gerlad Ciolek can't believe he's just won the 2013 Milan-San Remo, while Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara can't believe they've just lost (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) had a reason to complain

Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) had a reason to complain (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton race towards the finish in San Remo

The peloton race towards the finish in San Remo (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Gerald Ciolek (MTN - Qhubeka) sprints to victory in Milan-San Remo

Gerald Ciolek (MTN - Qhubeka) sprints to victory in Milan-San Remo (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Sagan, Ciolek and Cancellara on the Milan-San Remo podium

Sagan, Ciolek and Cancellara on the Milan-San Remo podium (Image credit: Sirotti)
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The peloton take on the harsh Milan-San Remo conditions

The peloton take on the harsh Milan-San Remo conditions (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Ian Stannard (Sky), Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Gerald Ciolek (MTN - Qhubeka) and Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack - Nissan)

Ian Stannard (Sky), Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Gerald Ciolek (MTN - Qhubeka) and Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack - Nissan) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Kristijan Koren (Cannondale)

Kristijan Koren (Cannondale) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Racers in the snow during Milan-San Remo

Racers in the snow during Milan-San Remo (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Racers battled snowy conditions in Italy

Racers battled snowy conditions in Italy (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma - QuickStep) looks cold

Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma - QuickStep) looks cold (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cannondale control the front of the peloton

Cannondale control the front of the peloton (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ian Stannard leads Sagan and Ciolek

Ian Stannard leads Sagan and Ciolek (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Team Sky set the pace

Team Sky set the pace (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cannondale wait for the race to re-start

Cannondale wait for the race to re-start (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Lars Bak (Lotto) leads the break at Milan-San Remo

Lars Bak (Lotto) leads the break at Milan-San Remo (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) tried a solo move but ran out of gas on the Poggio

Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) tried a solo move but ran out of gas on the Poggio (Image credit: Sirotti)
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The Omega Pharma Quick Step bus in the snow

The Omega Pharma Quick Step bus in the snow (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Manuel Belletti (AG2R - La Mondiale)

Manuel Belletti (AG2R - La Mondiale) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Racers in the snow at Milan-San Remo

Racers in the snow at Milan-San Remo (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The lead moto flags riders

The lead moto flags riders (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Matteo Montaguti (AG2R - La Mondiale)

Matteo Montaguti (AG2R - La Mondiale) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Matti Breschel (Team Saxo - Tinkoff)

Matti Breschel (Team Saxo - Tinkoff) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

This year's Milan-San Remo has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but with spring in the air and the spring equinox falling on Friday March 20, the thoughts of professional cycling fans naturally turn to first Monument of the season and the slow-burning thrill of seeing if the sprinters, or instead the attackers, will prevail on Saturday afternoon.

As Barry Ryan wrote in his feature analysing the 10 ways to win Milan-San Remo on Wednesday, even in its absence, Milan-San Remo still endures. Over a century of memories are dotted along the 300 kilometres from the heart of Milan and along the Ligurian coast towards France. More will be added in the years still ahead.

Legendary editions of the race were held in the warming sun of the Italian spring, others affected by the cold and rain of the gods of the Italian winter.

 In 2013, the race became a battle for survival after the riders were enveloped in a snowstorm for the opening 100km. Riders became covered in snow and ice, and frozen to the bone in scenes that recalled the 1988 Giro d'Italia won by Andy Hampsten and the legendary stage over the Passo del Gavia. For a moment, winter snow almost stopped Milan-San Remo.

I was there for Cyclingnews and followed each dramatic moment of the day; from the sense of fear in the rain-soaked start in Milan and the first signs of snow on the Lombardy plains, to the deep snow on the Turchino and the decision to stop the riders before the climb and travel by bus to the Mediterranean coast and find a quiet stretch of road to restart the race.

Riders were so wet and so cold after riding 100km in cold rain and snow that many, even some of the hardest hard men of the Classics, did not want to continue.

Race director Mauro Vegni and his staff at RCS Sport used their Italian ingenuity to keep the race alive and by convincing as many as teams and riders as they could to start again and ride on to San Remo. These days, with the Extreme Weather Protocol and modern concerns about health and rider safety, the race never have reached San Remo.

But in 2013 the riders begrudgingly put on whatever dry clothes they could, gulped down hot espresso coffees and a reduced peloton eventually gathered under a petrol station canopy before racing no to San Remo.

One rider told Cyclingnews that he has never recovered the feeling in a finger due to the cold of that day. But looking back a few years on, most riders have forgotten the pain and suffering they went through and remember the craziness of the historic moment.

"The only thing I remember is that it was cold! It wasn't heroic – we suffered a hell of a lot," Bora-Hansgrohe's Peter Sagan told Cyclingnews before last year's race.

"I was on form and my legs felt good, but the 100km in the snow were tough and affected the whole race."

Sagan finished second to Germany's Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) that day in a hectic small-group sprint. He has now ridden Milan-San Remo nine times and finished in the top ten five times, but never won the opening monument Classic of the season.

Only 135 riders finished the 2013 race, with Vladimir Isaychev (Katusha) last over the line. The likes of Tom Boonen and Niki Terpstra defied QuickStep team orders and climbed off after the bus transfer, deciding they’d had enough. Vincenzo Nibali – then of Astana, and later the winner of the race in 2018 – had wanted to join them and soon threw in the towel, despite a chance of victory.   

"I wanted to climb off, and I eventually did climb off," Nibali told Cyclingnews.

"It was a really difficult day. It was extreme weather, and extremely cold because we rolled along under the snow for 100km. How can you race on a two-centimetre carpet of snow? It was impossible."

Britain's Ian Stannard often revels in cold conditions, and raced all the way to San Remo – even joining a strong attack group after the Cipressa. They were joined by Sagan, Ciolek, Fabian Cancellara and a few others, and held off the rest of the peloton. Stannard finished a cold but proud sixth.   

"It was pretty horrific," he recalled to Cyclingnews. "I can remember getting on the team bus after 100km in the snow and feeling so, so cold. I was frozen solid. It was weird to be up there in the finale, but nice, too.

"Geraint Thomas had crashed, and Eddy Boasson Hagen didn't feel great, so I just went for it. It was nice to have a big day out on a legendary day."

Click or swipe through our special gallery of photos from the snow-affected 2013 edition of Milan-San Remo.